Drinking Bitter Waters

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I’ve never been much of a fan of coffee and other bitter drinks. Something about having to acclimate to the taste doesn’t agree with me. Why would I go out of my way to learn to like something that has such a negatively visceral effect on my tastebuds? People do it every day though, guzzle down these bitter drinks, learning to love the taste that can from the outset be so unpleasant. Maybe it’s in growing up that we learn that bitter in some ways can be just as good as sweet. Maybe it’s in growing up that we can understand that just because it’s bitter doesn’t mean it’s bad.

We spend our whole lives in a flow, a flow that seems to spin around and around, making us confront our past and future at the same time.  It’s when these to points cross that I understand that I’ve grown, mature in these years of unending experience pushing me forward into the unknown.  It’s when confronted by these seeming repeated events that I understand where I am and who I am.  That these cycles we pass through in our lives show how we can take another path, a better way than the one we had before.  It’s only having gone down that path that I can understand the road that lays before me and choose perhaps a higher one than before.  These cycles though are painful, and maybe I can avoid them outright but to do so would be asking myself to stop genuinely living.
It’s in this unwillingness to deviate from that pain that I know I am stronger. It’s in this statement, one which I don’t know who taught me, the places you won’t go are the ones that ultimately control your life. It’s in strength that I persist forward, it’s in learning that I take the other path. If I were to lay down before these forces and events that call my name and make me remember past wounds and scars than I would give too much power to those forces that are indifferent to my destruction.

It is now that I am willing to drink these bittered waters, ones that before would give me so much anguish to consume.  It’s not that I take pleasure in them, but I don’t avoid them knowing now that drinking them can set me free. I know it’s not the failings of my emotions or callousness of my approach that I am unable to taste the bitterness of my life anymore. No, it’s a change in perspective, an understanding that life though indifferent at times to my wants and desire, is not an outright malicious force. Life is just a tangled web of lives, and stories passed between all the people we meet.  Though they sometimes weave together in ways that we wish, it’s not anyone’s fault when these lives don’t seem to match up. It’s understanding that there may be a better way that requires us to be uncomfortable at times and feel pain when served these bitter waters, but as long as we don’t shy away from it, everything will turn out okay.  It’s then that we can decide what we want to do with these moments, do we build upon them accepting the blood and tears, or destroy them hoping that the memories of our hurt go away along with it. I can tell you that destroying has never left a good taste in my mouth.

Life has a way of serving us these lessons in ways that may not be pleasant. I don’t regret drinking these bittered waters or the path the lead me to do so, my only regret is that I never learned to do so sooner.

In The Gray City

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Here I am, in the city I was born and raised in,  reflecting on how I feel about this place. I’ve never been one to get overly nostalgic about places and things in my past.  Spaces and the people who inhabit them change, legacies are born, grow and die within them. It might be caused by my the mercurial living arrangement but it’s my home though.. I think I’m going to miss it when it comes time to finally leave it.

This city, Los Angeles, is categorized by many things, it’s identity composed of many different synchronous parts that ebb and flow on any given day.  The identity of which is the amalgamation of all of these parts creating a look and feel beyond just these seemingly clashing identities. Like many major cities, Los Angeles has a distinct feel to it. Sure things change rapidly here because the influx of migrants trying to find their own California Gold but even then, Los Angeles remains itself through all of these changes.

From movies to music, art to history, Los Angeles has many things both visable and invisible.   It’s interesting though, because of how Los Angeles is, were all together and separate at the same time. Driving place to place, seeing things and people pass as of the wheels in the cars turn.  People are always going somewhere, even if the destination isn’t quite yet known.

To me this city is gray, the colors of the cityscape and the people who dwell in it are gray.  This city is marked and marred by the overwhelming cascades of concrete highlighting the functionality of a city built in the twentith century.  It’s a place that has far outgrown it’s intended capacity but continually changes to meet it.  The tendrils of this expansive city stretch out hundreds of blocks in either direction highlighting how different each little section of this whole city can be.  The people all relate mixing a matching to one another, coloring light and dark to make a color that appears at first to be boring but deep down it made up of some of the most exciting colors in the world.

It’s like this, I used to hate the skyline here, with its flat tops and square buildings never really adding a sense of character to the view. As time goes on, I can understand this functional beauty, this uniform madness that cast shadows over the streets during the hot summer days.  We all have systems in dealing with the oppressive heat, the dense traffic, and lack of parking.  Once you get used to it there is a sense that nothing really surprises you anymore. This wild and controlled place is constantly barraging you with things to do, people to see, but plays all these unique characteristics off as just another Saturday night, never making a big deal about anything.

This gray, cool gray, highlights it all.   This cruel and loving city, this exciting and boring place, you’re both beautiful and ugly to me which makes me love you.

Wait Weight? Don’t Tell Me!

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A friend’s post online sparked a thought, one about size, weight, and we feel about ourselves.

One of the things I am happy to see through social media is all the positive life progress people post online to keep themselves accountable. People are making their lives better and tracking every moment of it. These progressive pictures that propagate may be pesky to some people, but it always reminds me of being able to overcome adversity and the ability for us to turn our lives around, not through ease but through hard work and perseverance.

I used to count calories to see low I could go. Food was the enemy, and I was just a warrior in my battle against it.

I had always been heavy for my height, thankfully always getting taller to accommodate for all the extra calories.  By the time I entered high school I was already unhappy with myself, which was one part depression and two parts the unfortunate side effect from it.  I ate to make myself feel okay, thinking I needed that extra sandwich at lunch.  I was a new place, with new people, after an old place with old people, something needed to change.

I was in my second year, learning to love the hobby of running that the results gave me something more than I could imagine, confidence.  I was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin.  The problem was I didn’t really know what healthy was, I mean sure my cousins worked out but I was never really privy to what exactly they were doing.  So I stuck to my guns, decided to do all I could to reduce my weight.  I was adhering to a guideline set out for me by the BMI index and dropping weight as much as I could.

I think few things really affected me during this period. First is that I got down to the weight that I wanted to, finally for the first time in my recorded life I hit the standard weight category. Second, my sister constantly referred to me as manorexic because of this weight loss. Third, I felt like I was finally able to have control over my own body. Lastly, the way I was eating caused me to have dizzy spells in the middle of the day where my vision would act like I was in the ocean and start wiggling about. I wanted to keep going because it felt so good to lose but my body resisted and stopped.

That being said, the next year I gained some of the weight back (partially because I was happily in my first relationship) and I have been yoyo-ing ever since. In all the subsequent years after that, I have never had a normal BMI number. Now it’s not unobtainable for a long stretch, but the question is, what is it that I want.

Years after another set of up and down I decided that my fitness goal instead of a number I am shooting for a fitness level.  I want to be able to get up and go if my friends ask me to go on a spontaneous hike. I devoted myself not to look at the scale, as it is deceiving, never letting me get away from how others think my body should look and feel.

Now my goals have grown from there, and I feel like I am the most fit I have ever been in my life, not skinny in the conventional sense but have a lot more muscle than before.  I am happy because I can eat the occasional unhealthy meal knowing I mostly eat healthy things and keep active incredibly regularly.

I stepped on the scale recently, not by choice but I wasn’t worried about what it said.  I am 6’1″, 222 pounds, conventionally this weight would mean I was on the verge of obesity but I know that’s not true.  This is a weight of effort and work, muscle.  We’re not all the same, and there are better ways to check how well you’re doing but it is always possible to become healthy, our bodies want us to be.  In the end as long as your making progress, then that’s all that matters, you are lapping everyone on the couch and that’s something to be proud of.

I will occasionally get worried about the number of calories I eat or feel like I need to step up my game at the gym. The mirror truthfully never is anything other than a battle between me and my scarred self-image. Whats most important is that I’m healthy, so if you ever wanted to have me step on a scale I might reply “Wait weight? Don’t tell me!”